IBM Lands GSA Smart Buildings Contract

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-05-22

IBM Lands GSA Smart Buildings Contract

IBM (NYSE: IBM) has won a U.S. General Services Administration contract to develop and install advanced smart building technology in 50 of the federal government€™s highest energy-consuming buildings.

This project is part of GSA€™s larger smart building strategy and will connect building management systems to a central cloud-based platform, improving efficiency and saving up to $15 million in taxpayer dollars annually, IBM said.

Commercial buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the United States€™ primary energy use, and GSA owns nearly 182 million square feet of office space nationwide. GSA's plan to meet the requirements of President Obama€™s Executive Order 13514 includes a goal of reducing energy consumption in federal buildings by 30 percent by 2015.

Under the terms of the contract, IBM will develop a system to monitor building performance nationwide and stream data to a central facility, allowing faster analysis and more informed decision making. This project uses innovative building management technology, linking major building controls in real time to make federal buildings more energy-efficient. When fully implemented, GSA will use newly available data and analytics to save energy and reduce building operating costs in GSA€™s entire owned inventory.

€œThe development of this industry-leading smart building system begins a new era in how GSA manages our nation€™s public buildings and will prove the feasibility of this technology for the larger industry,€ GSA Acting Public Buildings Commissioner Linda Chero said in a statement. €œThis program connects existing building technologies in new ways to improve building efficiency in over 32 million square feet of real estate. Awarding this contract benefits taxpayers, as it will reduce maintenance and operating costs of the federal building portfolio€”saving taxpayers an estimated $15 million annually.€

On its Website, the GSA describes its smart building goals:

GSA is implementing a smart building strategy and working aggressively to modernize existing buildings and establish new standards for design and construction in order to achieve department and administration goals of energy efficiency and sustainability while still providing superior workplaces for federal customer agencies at good economies to the American taxpayer. The strategy will build on a solid history, enable staff and existing plans to take a holistic view of buildings, including building systems, occupants, the environment, energy sources, operating policy, and capital and operating expenses. The strategy will be applied to existing inventory or buildings and projects but also specifically address projects and planning related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Technology Will Provide Tools to Keep Buildings Performing at Peak Efficiency

When the system is fully integrated, tenants will be able to view the performance of their buildings on dashboards with real-time metrics on energy savings and recommendations on how to further increase efficiencies. In the first year, 50 buildings will be integrated on this building management system. As additional federal buildings are constructed and other facilities are upgraded, those buildings will also be managed with this platform. The new technology will give property managers real-time information and diagnostic tools to keep buildings performing at peak efficiency, increasing cost savings across the federal building portfolio.

€œWe are at a tipping point in terms of advancing the greening of our buildings and making them smarter,€ IBM Vice President of Industry Solutions Dave Bartlett said in a statement. €œWhen you look at buildings holistically, with end-to-end visibility across all systems, you can more clearly see the connections, the interactions and opportunities for efficiency among the various systems. Using analytics, we can make better decisions about how to best visualize and optimize these systems. The data exists€”it's a matter of understanding and responding to what the data is telling us, and that's what we're helping GSA to do.€

€œGSA is implementing a smart building strategy to take advantage of greater tenant satisfaction, reduce energy cost and environmental impact, and decrease operational inefficiencies,€ according to the GSA Website. €œThese advantages will assist GSA in meeting all executive orders and guidance, meet current GSA administrative goals and objectives, and prepare GSA for future building technologies, security issues and tenant requirements.€

Safety and security are among the primary concerns that smart buildings address. GSA describes a smart building safety scenario:

A fire situation is perhaps the most commonly cited example of how GSA smart buildings are beneficial. The alarms sound and other building systems begin to react: Exhaust dampers open, the IP paging and intercom system issues instructions to occupants, the access-control system unlocks doors for evacuation, and CCTV cameras provide emergency responders with a view of the fire.

Intelligent buildings offer life-safety enhancements in other emergencies as well. An earthquake sensor or signal from the national geological service can be connected with building systems for facilities in seismic zones. In the event of an earthquake, an integrated building can automatically shut off gas lines, shut down computers and automatically notify occupants of the earthquake.

Security becomes mobile in intelligent buildings. Wireless surveillance cameras and a Web-enabled security system allow guards to view live video from a laptop or pocket PC.

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